Harmony, a Fermi paradox alternate history about an Earth that has always been occupied by aliens.
Monthly Archives: May 2012
I didn’t intend to set up my own small press. I had this science fiction novella which I thought was good enough to be published, but every small press I approached had a couple of years’ worth of material scheduled. I didn’t think a magazine would publish the novella because it has an extensive glossary – and the glossary is important to the reading experience. And, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced editors would actually like my novella. I hadn’t written it in a science fiction mode… though it’s set in an alternate 1980s, is about astronauts stranded on the Moon, and makes use of an unexplained Nazi “Wunderwaffe”. But it’s not the sort of science fiction you see each year on the Hugo and Nebula shortlists. Besides, my novella was also the first of a quartet, and I’d sooner have sold all four as a single package… even though I hadn’t written the other three.
And then I agreed to edit Rocket Science, an anthology of hard science fiction, for Mutation Press (which was responsible for the Music for Another World anthology in 2010). The plan was to launch Rocket Science at the Eastercon in London in April 2012. It occurred to me this would be a perfect time to also launch my novella…
But the only way I was going to manage that would be to publish it myself. No existing small press, even if it agreed, would be able to turn it around so fast.
Self-publishing an ebook is one thing, but I wanted to do it properly. That meant making the novella, titled Adrift on the Sea of Rains, available in both paperback and limited edition hardback. Since I was going to all that trouble, I decided I might as well set up an actual small press, and make Adrift on the Sea of Rains its first publication. I especially liked that this gave me complete control over how the novella would appear in print.
However, I am unfortunately poor at art. I could have looked for suitable cover art on the Internet. Or perhaps used a photograph from the Apollo Moon missions. I did, in fact, experiment with some covers using both. But I wanted Adrift on the Sea of Rains to stand out, to not look like just another self-published science fiction novella. One night, I was watching Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, and in it a character picked up a paperback book. Red Desert was released in 1964, and though the paperback in the film is Italian, it reminded me of the Penguin Modern Classic paperbacks on my bookshelves which used to belong to my father. I wanted something which resembled those books. After some experimentation, that’s what I ended up with: a cover filled with a grid of line-drawings of an Apollo LM, one of which is in grey. The art is actually relevant to the novella’s plot.
I asked a number of published sf authors I knew if they’d provide back-cover quotes. Those that agreed I emailed a PDF of the novella to. By the time I had the front cover finalised, all the quotes, ISBNs from Nielsen, and quotes from the printers, it was the beginning of March. I submitted print-ready files to the printer, and then fretted.
The first set of cover proofs had mistakes on them – made by the printers, not me. The second set were correct. A week before the Eastercon, a courier delivered five boxes of books, three of hardbacks and two of paperbacks. I was pleased to note the book had come out better than I’d expected. It’s not perfect, and if I could I’d make a few changes and release a new edition.
Since its publication, the response to Adrift on the Sea of Rains has been overwhelmingly positive. So far about ten reviews, all positive, have appeared online; and several people have tweeted that they thought it was really good. Of course, this means the pressure is now on to make the second book of the quartet even better…
As for Whippleshield Books… Yes, there are the other three books of the Apollo Quartet yet to see print. But I’m anticipating six to nine months between each one. Since I plan to publish two or three books a year, I’m going to need more material, so Whippleshield Books is open to submissions. But only of a specific type: novellas or very short linked collections, hard science fiction or space fiction, of high literary quality.
It’s likely I will be rejecting lots of submissions. I learnt doing Rocket Science that the definition of hard sf I was operating from wasn’t one shared by many of the people who submitted stories to the anthology. I have a very particular type of story in my head for Whippleshield Books – which, unsurprisingly, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, indeed the entire Apollo Quartet, sort of exemplifies – but I expect to be sent a lot of submissions which are very much not like that. The guidelines for Whippleshield Books can be found on the website.
Excellent review of Eric Brown’s Ghostwriting, over at Hellnotes:
“Irrespective of genre limitations Brown is a terrific storyteller as the present collection effectively proves… All in all an excellent collection of entertaining and well written dark fiction.”
Nice to see Eric getting this kind of recognition for this set of haunting, psychological horror: as I’ve said before, I think it contains some of his finest writing.
I posted recently about the unsatisfactory distribution – and erratic pricing – of our print editions in the UK. Prices were higher, with high postage rates; and just to complicate matters, prices could vary widely week to week; and all of this was beyond our control at infinity plus.
We have some very good news on this: CreateSpace (our print-on-demand supplier) and Amazon (our main distributor) have finally got their European act together!
Now you can order our print editions from Amazon’s UK and other European stores for a price we’ve set, with the advantage of Amazon’s normal delivery options (including free).
So what’s stopping you? Right now we have the following available:
- Iain Rowan’s CWA Debut Dagger-shortlisted crime novel One of Us, at £7.99
- Eric Brown‘s collection of psychological horror stories, Ghostwriting, which contains some of his finest writing to date, at £6.99
- And bestselling children’s author Kaitlin Queen‘s first adult novel One More Unfortunate, at £7.99
Coming soon we’ll have Iain Rowan’s crime collection, Nowhere to Go, recently shortlisted by Spinetingler for a best crime collection award, plus more to be announced soon.
Spot the difference?
Same cover, same novel, different titles.
My big novel about aliens, the Fermi paradox and extreme alternate history, alt.human, will be called Harmony for the North American market.
Confused? It’s all about marketing.
Fairly late in the day, just before covers were finalised, my publishers presented the novel to distributors in the UK and US. Everyone loved the cover, and the novel itself. The US distributors, however, were less keen on the title – to the extent that they would make smaller orders than anticipated.
Simple. I can be fairly pragmatic about these things. I’ve had book titles changed before, as a result of a marketing department’s feel for the market or the response from distributors. While titles matter to me, what matters most is that I get my work out to readers. And while I might not agree with the distributors’ judgement on the title, their decision to make smaller orders was very real!
So I proposed a new title, Harmony. I actually like that title, quite a lot, and would have been happy for it to be adopted worldwide for the book. US distributors agreed, and promptly committed to bigger orders.
The UK distributors, however, loved alt.human, and really didn’t want to change it.
And so: same cover, same novel, different titles.